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Colon Cancer

Perspectives on the benefits of Colorectal Cancer screening

Over 130,000 cases of new colon cancer are diagnosed yearly in the United States. Cancer cells do not develop from normal cells in the colon in most cases, rather normal cells develop abnormal changes in them and become “adenomas.” Adenomas are small growths called polyps in the colon. If these are detected early and removed, colon cancer does not develop. Once a polyp (adenoma) develops it may take 5 to 10 years for it to grow and finally degenerate into a cancer, so there is sufficient time for the polyps to be detected and removed.

This is why it is so important to have:

1) a yearly check of the stools for occult blood (blood which cannot be seen with the naked eye), and

2) sigmoidoscopy (looking with a small tube up into the colon) every three years once beyond the age of 50

3) colonoscopy is the most important step in the prevention of colon cancer. Colon cancer can be prevented by removing benign growths (detected during your colonoscopy) before they become cancer.

Unfortunately, if colon cancer is not detected in the early stages it spreads beyond the colon and adequate treatment is not effective to provide a cure. If a person is beyond the age of 50, he should see his doctor to have a sigmoidoscopic examination and his stool checked yearly for occult blood. If one has a family history of colon cancer, he should inform his doctor of this, and a complete evaluation of his colon should be done. Symptoms which occur in association with colon cancer can be abdominal pain, distention, constipation, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and anemia (usually associated with fatigue and weakness).